Over the summer, former Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) held a forum in his new home state of New Hampshire, where he focused much of his attention on border security. "We have a breakdown in immigration," the Republican argued. "So why is there a breakdown? Do we need more examiners? More judges? What is it? I've had hearings on it. I've tried to work on it."
Unfortunately for Brown, this is about as true as his claims about secret meeting with kings and queens. Sean Sullivan reported yesterday:
Former Massachusetts senator Scott Brown (R) has run several attack ad scriticizing Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) for failing to secure the U.S.-Mexico border. But as a member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, he missed all six hearings on border security that he was eligible to attend, records suggest. Brown was absent from five hearings in 2011 and one in 2010, according to a review of public records and congressional transcripts and video. Of the six, four were full committee hearings and two were meetings of the subcommittee on Disaster Recovery and Intergovernmental Affairs, to which he belonged.
The obvious problem is that Brown has based much of his campaign on concerns about border security -- an issue he never showed much of an interest in until he left his home state to run somewhere new. Indeed, the fact that he skipped six out of six hearings on the subject during his brief tenure in the U.S. Senate suggests Brown's passion for border security is a sudden and unexpected development.
But arguably more important still is a basic question of honesty. Brown told New Hampshire voters that he's developed some expertise on this issue he never used to care about. "I've had hearings," the Republican boasted. "I've tried to work on it."
Except, it now seems clear that that he didn't.
Asked for an explanation, Brown's campaign spokesperson referred the Washington Post to a recent interview in which the former senator explained, "Senators have a tremendous amount of responsibilities there. I knew in my case I was on four committees, two subcommittees, a bunch of caucuses -- and plus I was doing my National Guard duty, so I don't think there's ever an expectation to have 100 percent attendance."
At first blush, that's actually a decent response. Both parties have gone after incumbents this year, far more than in other recent cycles, over committee-hearing attendance, and in general, the criticisms should be met with some caution. It's not unusual, for example, for senators to serve on multiple committees, some of which schedule hearings at the same time. When a lawmaker chooses to attend one, it doesn't necessarily mean he or she has no interest in the other issue.
But for Brown, the details matter. He didn't miss a hearing on border security, he missed every hearing on border security -- and then he made untrue boasts to voters about his record.
It sometimes seems as if Scott Brown just isn't especially good at this.